Ivanna is a growing, healthy one-year-old who weighs 7kgs. “She eats at least twice a day and rarely refuses any snacks offered to her. She loves to eat by herself and doesn’t like to be spoon-fed now,” says her proud mother, Devi, 20. She knows every kilo her daughter puts on is an achievement in the battle against malnutrition that is so common among families living in extreme poverty.

The first 1000 days of life is a crucial period for babies like Ivanna. These critical days form the foundations for a child's health, growth, and neurodevelopment. A lack of adequate nutrients can cause malnutrition and stunting. Stunting is visible evidence of poor nutrition. Indonesia’s Ministry of Health says one of four Indonesian children suffers from preventable stunting. Stunting often begins in the womb due to a low maternal diet, but symptoms typically don’t show until the child is around two years old.

One year old Ivana from Indonesia. 

Brain development is affected, too, resulting in lower IQ and reduced work opportunities as an adult. According to the World Health Organisation, children stunted at the age of two completed a year less of schooling than non-stunted children and were likely to earn 20 per cent less as adults. This study showed a link between low food and nutrition intake as a result of poverty.

Baby Ivanna faced this risk. Devi’s husband is a private tutor, but his low income means they live in poverty. Thankfully, Devi joined Compassion’s Survival intervention during her pregnancy. Through Compassion's church partner, she has been equipped with everything she needs to know about the importance of child nutrition.

Devi joined Compassion’s Survival intervention during her pregnancy.

“If it weren’t for the programme, Ivanna wouldn’t be growing as healthily as she is now. Compassion’s programme gave me a lot more knowledge than the local health institution did,” says Devi. Staff member Santi says they taught the couple how to give Ivanna a balanced, nutritious diet. “At first they tried to feed Ivanna with instant food, but we taught them the importance of a nutrient-balanced food for their baby.”

The child development centre in their region aims to educate parents about the importance of sufficient nutrition for babies beginning in pregnancy. The goal is to reduce cases of infant death, child stunting, and under-nutrition.

Through the programme, Devi is taught about the importance of child nutrition.

Lina, the programme coordinator says, “We receive many good testimonies from the parents. Through a group chat on WhatsApp, we can have close communication with the parents, keeping track of their babies’ development. We receive many inquiries from the community in surrounding areas regarding knowledge sharing, but it has been challenging during this pandemic.”

Staff members are taking additional precautions when they visit the families. “We bring our hand sanitisers and face masks. We have to limit our home visits to less than 30 minutes each visit," she says.

Despite the challenges, the centre staff are committed to doing all they can to serve these vulnerable parents. Through mobile video calls, the staff can track the babies’ growth and development and do regular checks. Staff visit those who don't have a phone.

Compassion's church partner is also helping vulnerable parents by giving them fresh, healthy food every two weeks, including chicken, eggs, carrots, beans, and more. “Ivanna doesn’t like instant food now. She prefers cooked food,” says Devi. The habit has formed because of the early intervention that introduced a healthy, balanced diet to the baby.

With Devi’s knowledge in child nutrition, she shares her experience as a young parent with her peers.

Devi can already see the impact on her baby’s development. “She can walk well on her own now,” says Devi. Compassion and the church are fighting poverty in Indonesia through holistic training in food and nutrition for mothers and their babies. With Devi’s knowledge in child nutrition, she shares her experience as a young parent with her peers. “Having Ivanna in the family is a joy for us, but watching her grow healthy day by day, is another thing. I can’t express it in words,” she says, with tears in her eyes.

For just $30 a month for one powerful year you could give a child in Indonesia the best start in life.


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